Second Defendant Sentenced to 3 Years for Stealing Government Checks from the Mail

May 19, 2008

Baltimore, Maryland - U.S. District Judge William D. Quarles, Jr. sentenced Juan Antonio Avila, age 41, a Honduran national, today to three years in prison followed by three years of supervised release for receiving stolen property and aggravated identity theft in connection with stealing government checks from mailboxes and cashing the checks using fake identity documents, announced United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein.

According to his guilty plea, from at least February to March 2006 Avila and his associates followed postal carriers on their postal routes. After the carriers deposited the mail in apartment panel mailboxes, the conspirators broke into the mailboxes and stole U.S. treasury checks and other government-issued checks. The checks represented the payment of tax returns and other federal government benefits. Avila and his associates cashed the checks at liquor and convenience stores throughout Maryland using fraudulent identity documents. Additionally, on some occasions, the conspirators altered the payment amount to reflect a greater amount.

For example, in April 2006 Avila cashed a stolen check at a liquor store in Prince Frederick, Maryland using a fake employment authorization card bearing the check payee’s name, but Avila’s picture. He was identified with respect to cashing numerous other stolen checks at other convenience and liquor stores.

Avila also provided fake identification cards that he manufactured to other associates involved in the scheme, using photographs of the associate and the true name of the payee of a stolen check. On December 3, 2007, federal investigators seized identification-making equipment at a residence at which Avila was staying.

Judge Quarles determined at sentencing that at least $70,000 in losses were foreseeable to Avila resulting from his participation in the scheme.

In a related cases, Elmin Uliser-Reyes, age 22, pleaded guilty to his participation in this scheme and was sentenced on April 3, 2008 to three years in prison for receiving stolen property, aggravated identity theft and illegal reentry into the United States. He will be deported after serving his sentence. Jose Matires Carranza-Gonzales, age 27, also pleaded guilty on March 26, 2008. He faces a maximum sentence for receipt of stolen property of 10 years in prison, and a mandatory sentence of two years in prison for aggravated identity theft, consecutive to any other sentence imposed, at his sentencing scheduled for June 13, 2008.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein thanked the U.S. Postal Inspection Service; U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement; U.S. Secret Service; the Treasury Inspector General For Tax Administration; the Department of the Treasury, Office of the Inspector General; the U.S. Department of the Treasury/Financial Management Service; the Comptroller of Maryland, Revenue Administration Division; the Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General, Office of Investigations; the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office; and the Howard County Sheriff’s Office for their investigative work in this and related cases. Mr. Rosenstein commended Assistant United States Attorney Michael C. Hanlon, who prosecuted the case.



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